On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released preliminary results of this week’s large-scale COVID-19 antibody testing, revealing that 13.9 percent of the state population have tested positive for antibodies. This means that up to 2.7 million residents may have been infected in New York, ten times the number of confirmed cases in the state.
Antibody testing will continue across the state to build on these results. Those who test positive can donate blood for convalescent plasma, a medical treatment for those severely infected with the virus.
The antibody testing was performed at 40 separate grocery stores and big box stores across 19 counties in the state. Unsurprisingly, most people who tested positive were located in New York City or the surrounding areas of Westchester and Long Island. Only 3.6 percent of those tested positive were in other areas upstate. Cuomo said that this finding supports a strategy of regional reopening, where regions with lower infection rates can begin opening certain businesses and facilities sooner.
“What you do in a region still has to be coordinated, because you have a pent-up demand in the whole tri-state area,” Cuomo explained. “If one region opens up for business, you could see people come in from all over the tri-state area and overwhelm that region.”
Cuomo said he will coordinate with Connecticut and New Jersey in looking into this approach.
The results also exhibited racial disparities, with African American and Latino populations both testing positive at about twice the rate of white people. Cuomo explained that this result was partially a reflection of the regional breakdown in this particular survey, as most of the African American and Latino people in the survey were from New York City.
However, Cuomo acknowledged that previous data has shown disparities in infection and fatality rates for these populations due to healthcare disparities, comorbidities and the fact that they are disproportionately represented in essential work.
To address these disparities, particularly in New York City, the state will be partnering with the New York City Housing Association to expand COVID-19 testing in public housing facilities, where social distancing can be difficult due to the dense population. The state will be expanding testing into African American and Latino communities using churches in those areas that have volunteered to be testing sites.
The number of hospitalizations, intubations and deaths in New York has continued to decline, but slowly. A rising concern is the spread of COVID-19 through nursing homes. Of the 438 people who died of the virus in the last 24 hours, 35 of them were residents of nursing homes. As of April 21, there were 2,869 nursing home fatalities in the state.
In light of this, Cuomo announced Thursday that the state Department of Health and Attorney General Letitia James will be investigating potential violations of regulations, including use of personal protective equipment, staffing and isolation policies, and communication policies to residents and families of COVID-19 cases and COVID-related deaths. Those who have not complied with these policies could face a $10,000 fine per violation or lose their operating license.